An execution in front of the camera – with this, the mercenaries of the Kremlin’s notorious private army, the Wagner group, want to open a new chapter in their inglorious history. On the evening of November 12, a shocking video appeared on the Gray Zone Telegram channel, which is linked to the mercenary squad. It shows the brutal execution of Yevgeny Nushin.

In the summer, Nushin was recruited by the Wagner squad from prison No. 3 in the Ryazan region. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head and nominal owner of the private army, paid a personal visit to the penitentiary in search of new men. You should fight for him in Ukraine.

Nushin had spent the last 19 years in prison. Service in the Wagner troupe meant freedom for the man who had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for murder. But on his second night at the front, Nushin fled. Arrived in Kyiv, he unpacked about the disastrous conditions in the Wagner troupe and gave interviews on Ukrainian television. Nushin became a prominent media figure. But his final moments in front of a camera ended in his death.

For his alleged treachery, his former comrades killed Nushin with a mallet. Before he died, he said he was kidnapped from Kyiv on November 11. He was beaten unconscious and finally woke up in a basement, where he learned he was being “executed.” “A dog’s death,” Prigoshin commented on the recordings.

The incident leaves many questions unanswered. How did Nuschin fall into the hands of the Wagner troupe again? Experts believe that the fact that he was actually kidnapped from Kyiv is not credible. The mercenary squad would not have the ability to kidnap anyone from the Ukrainian capital. The scenario that Nushin was transferred from Ukraine to Russia as part of a prisoner exchange is more likely. But that would mean that Kyiv is violating the Geneva Convention. Accordingly, prisoners may not be exchanged if they do not wish to do so themselves. And Nushin will not have agreed to an exchange himself – knowing that in the best-case scenario he faces a trial for treason in Russia.

“As far as I know, Prigozhin blackmailed the Ukrainian side,” Vladimir Osechkin said in an interview with independent broadcaster Dozhd. The founder of the human rights organization fights for the rights of prisoners and is now demanding answers from Kyiv. However, he assumes that the Wagner troupe could have issued an ultimatum: If an exchange did not take place in the shortest possible time and if those men who were wanted were not transferred, Ukrainian prisoners would be executed. The Wagner troops asked for certain prisoners, including Nuschin.

“They didn’t want Nushin because he was a significant combatant. In the information war between Russia and Ukraine, Nushin has become one of the most prominent figures on the Internet. He not only left the ranks of the armed forces and the Wagner squad. He denounced this system . Even more: he declared that he wanted to fight against them. And he created conditions that allowed others to follow in his footsteps,” says Ossetchkin.

Millions of people, including Wagner mercenaries and mobilized soldiers, watched Nuschin’s interviews. “They looked at it and understood it as a guide to their own actions. They saw that you can surrender and that you are guaranteed safety. What happened now destroys trust in this process,” Ossechkin said. “The Wagner mercenaries or prisoners who go to the front appear to be in a gray zone where they have absolutely no rights. On one side you can smash their heads in with a sledgehammer. And on the other side you think it’s obvious that they don’t have prisoner rights, so they can be swapped out.”

The demonstrative execution of Nushin sends a violent message to the armed forces, mobilized, Wagner mercenaries – and the Russian elite.

“The longer I watch the whole thing, the more I am convinced that Prigozhin is not an independent player. He is a project by Putin to intimidate the elites,” says political scientist Abbas Galyamov, who himself once wrote speeches for Putin. Speaking to Alexei Navalny’s team, he explained: “The elites are increasingly dissatisfied with the regime. They can escape control at any moment. In Putin’s eyes, such deterrence is the only way to prevent the elites from taking active action against him: Look, that’s what awaits you!”, was Putin’s message.

“Prigozhin acts exclusively in the interests of Putin,” said Galayamov. And the reactions to the execution of Nushin support this assumption – in fact, the non-existent reactions.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov spoke up on Monday. His comment was short, but all the more meaningful. “We don’t know what that is or how it corresponds to reality. It’s none of our business,” he explained.

A murder is committed in front of the camera. Even more:┬áThe Wagner troupe declares a murder as an execution, as punishment for an alleged treason, and thus claims the right to impose a death penalty. The state relinquishes its monopoly on the use of force to a private group of mercenaries. And it shouldn’t concern the Kremlin.

According to the law, the Wagner troupe shouldn’t even exist. Mercenary activity is forbidden by law in Russia. And yet the paramilitary force not only exists, it can now also impose and execute capital punishment. Carte blanche comes straight from the Kremlin.

And the method works. Citing multiple sources, Bloomberg magazine reported that Russian business leaders and government officials fear for their own safety and that of their families. Especially after Prigozhin called for urgent “Stalinist repression” against wealthy Russians who “ignore the military situation”. It is necessary “to use the levers and mechanisms for the complete annihilation of these people as businessmen,” Prigozhin said in an interview with the propaganda channel RT.

Last Sunday, the day after Nushin’s execution was made public, Prigozhin struck at one of his sworn enemies. He filed a lawsuit against the governor of Saint Petersburg Alexander Beglov with the prosecutor’s office and the FSB. The ruler of Putin’s beloved hometown is said to have been guilty of high treason. The Kremlin is silent – and the silence shocks the elites. After all, Beglow was one of Putin’s most loyal allies for many years.

Meanwhile, Prigozhin is demonstrating that he himself has nothing to fear from the judicial system. In a taunting letter, he wrote to the Attorney General’s Office asking them to verify that the CIA was not involved in the execution of Nushin. They are investigating the theory that “Evgeny Nushin was recruited by the CIA and served an early prison term of 27 years. (…) He infiltrated the Wagner private military enterprise and set the stage for his execution,” according to a press release from Prigozhin’s company.

Not that prosecutors would lift a finger to open an investigation into the murder of a Russian citizen. Four days have passed since the shocking footage became public. During this time, the Russian judiciary usually manages not only to file a lawsuit, but also to pass a judgment. Assuming you’re a TikTok blogger making fun of Putin’s soldiers. As in the case of Nikolai Lebedev, who was arrested and sentenced within days. His crime: a parody of a Russian soldier in a trench.